PRITI PATEL has described the volume of migrants crossing the English Channel as “appalling and unacceptably high”, and called on France to help keep numbers down.
The home secretary made her comments on social media the day after British border officials detained 235 migrants as they tried to cross the narrow stretch of water between the UK and France — a daily record high.
The government has come under increasing political pressure from critics to tackle the issue and has even floated the idea of using the Royal Navy to patrol the Channel.
“The number of illegal small boat crossings is appalling and unacceptably high. The figures are shameful,” Patel said in a series of messages on Twitter.
“I am working to make this route unviable.”
Patel noted that this would involve preventing the boats from leaving France, and intercepting the ones attempting to make a crossing.
“This is complex to do and we face serious legislative, legal and operational barriers,” she added.
The home secretary called on “genuine refugees” to claim asylum in European Union states rather than try enter the UK illegally.
She also urged the French authorities to do more.
“We also need the cooperation of the French to intercept boats and return migrants back to France,” Patel wrote.
The number of illegal small boat crossings is appalling and unacceptably high. The figures are shameful.
France and other EU states are safe countries. Genuine refugees should claim asylum there, not risk their lives and break the law by coming to the UK. pic.twitter.com/qy2ykYicvl
— Priti Patel (@pritipatel) August 7, 2020
Among those criticising the home secretary has been Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, who has long campaigned on immigration issues and has accused the government of “talk and no action”.
During the 2016 referendum in which Britain voted to leave the European Union, Brexit supporters argued for the UK to “take back control” of its borders over fears too many migrants were arriving.
Last month, the interior ministers of France and Britain signed an agreement to create a new joint police intelligence unit to combat migrant traffickers and reduce the number of illegal Channel crossings.
The Times said on Friday that UK ministers were considering blocking migrant boats in the English Channel before they can enter UK waters, modelled on tactics used by Australia against migrants, which could involve the Royal Navy and Border Force intercepting vessels as they leave French waters.
According to reports, more than 3,400 people had made the crossing so far this year.
Most migrants include families from countries such as Yemen, Egypt, Sudan and Iraq, among others, fleeing their homes in search of better jobs and living conditions.